Bourgeoning photographer Jed Shue explores life after death and Aboriginal identity in captivating photographic series

Bourgeoning photographer Jed Shue explores life after death and Aboriginal identity in captivating photographic series

‘Native Mosaic’ by Jed Shue

The Bendigo-based photographer's latest series ‘Native Mosaic’ tells a powerful story, with a narrative that circles death, decay and regrowth.

“Traditional Aboriginal art is made up of a variety of symbols. Put together, these symbols create complex narratives that usually have multiple meanings depending on how you view it,” says Bendigo photographer and Deakin University Photography graduate, Jediah Shue.

“This series doesn’t have any explicit narratives, but I like to think that the process of creating the works, and the context of it is narrative enough.”

Jed Shue’s latest photographic series ‘Native Mosaic’ tells a powerful story, with a narrative that circles death, decay and regrowth.

A prevailing force of creativity amidst challenging circumstances

It was at the height of Victoria’s lockdown when Jed, a Deakin University Photography student, conceived the series.

The emerging fine arts photographer, whose work investigates the complex mix of cultural identities that make up our community and ourselves, began crafting a series using found objects collected from his region.

“I collected bones from roadkill around my local community on the outskirts of Bendigo,” he continues. “In the end, I had a variety of bones from kangaroo, lizard and rabbit remains, which were the most prominent types of roadkill. I also used clippings of various native plants.”

Invigorated by his passion for narrative and documentary photography, Jed photographed the found items and arranged them in photoshop to achieve six visually stunning and thought-provoking compositions.

After countless hours editing each image and cutting them out into transparent PNGs, Jed began to create the series which would become his final graduating project.

An exploration of death, decay and regrowth, and Aboriginal identity and place

Using what he had around him and reinterpreting it in a different voice, ‘Native Mosaic’ looks at the connection between us and the cycle of life, death, decay and rebirth. The intention was to bring about a deeper appreciation and understanding of the cycle which is an integral part of the environment that is often overlooked in the contemporary western perception of our bushland.

“I’ve always been interested in how we see death and decay as something as taboo and ugly, but really it is a necessary part of life, and quite beautiful in its own way. I wanted to show how we can accept and understand that death and decay are just as natural as living. And how we can engage with it in our everyday life in a creative way.”
Importantly, the series also explores Jed’s own identity as a person of Aboriginal (Yorta Yorta) descent.

“As the son of a proud Yorta Yorta and Dja Dja Wurrung woman (Echuca and Bendigo regions), I wanted to engage in something that I had previously not given much thought to,” Jed reveals.
“I used this as a way of expressing my own sense of heritage to the land and to my family.”

Using remains of native and introduced flora and fauna, Jed’s compositions are beautifully formed into traditional Aboriginal symbols, to continue the conversation of our modern-day interpretation of culture, identity and our active relationship with the environment.

It’s through photography – Jed’s investigation into his own identity – that he hopes to bring awareness to people who are exploring their own heritage and their own cultural identity.

“An important part of Aboriginal culture is the act of storytelling. Lore and knowledge are handed down through oral tradition, and photography in a sense is a medium of storytelling. My mum and Nana have been a big influence in my learning of our family history and our connection to the land. I was able to use photography as a lens (pun unintended) to admire the land around me and to really engage with and create something out of that.”

An observer and interpreter of the future

Having completed the series and graduating from Deakin, the budding photographer caught the attention of the esteemed Pippa Milne, Senior Curator at Monash Gallery of Art, inviting ‘Native Mosaic’ to be featured in MGA’s annual showcase of work by emerging photographic artists.

The exhibition, ‘Develop’, represents a small selection from the vast pool of high-calibre work that was produced by graduates of bachelor degrees in Melbourne in 2020, Jed included. With artists drawn from five universities and across many styles and genres, this is a celebration of the next generation of Australian photographers.

“It was a huge honour to be invited, especially when there was already such a great range of photographers also showing in the exhibitions,” Jed explains.

Providing a vital platform for Jed to exhibit his work, the exhibition further highlights the exciting and experimental way in which Jed approached the medium of photography in an extremely tough year on the arts.

Jed shares that “my lecturers at Deakin were quite influential in showing their own art and experience in the field. It’s great to be taught by people who are passionate about what they do, and all of them have such a diverse range of practice.”

Since graduating from Deakin, Jed has been exploring his creativity through some illustration and mural work around Bendigo with signwriter Wes Franklin, as well as pursuing freelance photography.

You can check out Jed’s work via his Instagram here, and visit the MGA ‘Develop’ showcase in Melbourne.

Jed studied a Bachelor of Creative Arts majoring in Photography at Deakin University. Learn more about studying Creative Arts here.